Although I’ve decided to cut down my fiction reading to get some work done, my recent oral surgery gave me a couple of days of down time when fast-moving fiction was about all I could concentrate on. Artemis Fowl was overdue, so I renewed and read it. I normally don’t read fantasy, but I have to admit this held my attention. I didn’t enjoy seeing a diobolical twelve-year old, and wouldn’t recommend him as a role model, but I can sympathize with his having too much time on his hands and not enough constructive attention from his parents.
I was immediately lured into the realm of the fairy world by the intriguing plot. It engaged me and kept me wondering what would happen next. I was also intrigued with the characters — both human and fairy. Each character had a definite personality that humans can relate to. And each character seems to grapple with moral issues, unless it was an amoral character (dwarf, troll). Even in the world of the fairies we see politics at work and those who are politically motivated willing to destroy others in their attempt to climb to the top.
I was able to identify easily with Holly Short, the elf/fairy/leprechaun and protagonist in this book. She felt a bit discriminated against as the first female officer in LEP’s (Lower Elements Police) Recon unit. She was a bit behind in attending to her Ritual, which meant her magic was not fully there and that she was unshielded and could be seen by humans. Her commander, Root discovered this while she was tracking a troll and was seen. She was then sent to perform the Ritual, and that landed her in Ireland.
Unfortunately, she was captured by Artemis before she could finish the Ritual which would restore her magic. She was supposed to pluck an acorn where “full moon, ancient oak and twisted water meet. And bury it far from where it was found.” She had the acorn, but had not had the chance to bury it yet. So she was still unshielded and without her magic when kidnapped and held prisoner in the Fowl estate.
The plot was complicated and I won’t tell it all. It was the moral issues in the book that fascinated me. Fowl was a child prodigy who had managed to steal and copy the Golden Book containing the rules the fairies had to follow. He had found a way to translate the fairy language in which it was written. He has done this so he can get his hands on the gold he believes the fairies have. Holly has to abide by the fairy rules, and Fowl uses his knowledge of them to keep her imprisoned. Meanwhile, a fairy Retrieval team has been sent to rescue her.
Besides Fowl himself, Holly is guarded by Butler, Fowl’s mammoth body guard, and Butler’s younger sister, Juliet, who is not too bright. She has a certain amount of sympathy for Juliet, and that sympathy almost gets her killed. Fowl has demanded a ransom of a ton of gold for Holly’s release. Holly cannot leave a human house without human permission (according to the rules). Holly managed to pound through the floor of her cell to bury her acorn and obtain her magic and shielding and take advantage of Juliet’s laziness and addiction to wrestling programs on TV to distract her and escape the cell. She and Fowl know that the house is in a field where time has been stopped for six hours to buy the fairies a longer night, since they can’t handle daylight above ground. At the end of the time field, a “blue rinse” will destroy every living thing in the house –including Holly if she’s still there. The idea is to get Holly out, destroy the others, and then go back after the gold, since only living things are destroyed.
Meanwhile, Mulch, a reprobate dwarf, has been let out of prison to enter the house. He has approached and found the secret safe where the a copy of the golden fairy rule book is hidden. Butler has been sent to the safe room, and is subdued by Mulch, who then realizes an opportunity to escape from everyone, including the fairies who would like to imprison him again. He manages to make the fairies think he is dead. With Mulch’s disappearance, the fairy command makes the rash decision to send in another lapsed creature — a troll — to get rid of the humans.
Holly, unaware of this, decides she will cause a lot of destruction in the house until Fowl begs her to leave. Meanwhile, Butler carries Juliet to what he deems as a safe place and hastens to meet the intruder he hears — the troll. He tries to shoot it, but his shots have little effect. Instead the troll almost or completely kills him, and then smells and starts toward Juliet. Holly arrives at the scene and sees Julie’s danger and tries to save her, knowing that she’ll be in trouble for it. She hits the troll with light, but he still topples her and she is hit by a tapestry falling on her. When she falls, her arm lands on the body of Butler, and he regains consciousness, aware that he is alive and fairy magic is healing him. Holly is also recovering and is able to see Butler defeat the troll before he can kill Juliet.
Artemis is still determined to hold Holy for the ransom, in spite of the fact that she has saved both him and Butler. Butler was a man of honor and did not like this. Holly knows they will all be blasted in a few minutes when the time field can no longer hold off daylight. The gold is on the way, but time is short. Holly confronts Fowl, asking him if he’s told Bulter and Juliet about the destruction that’s about to come upon them. Although she’s not supposed to have empathy for humans, she does for Juliet. Fowl says he knows and that he also knows how to escape the time field — a feat that Holly can’t believe is possible. Butler affirms his faith in Fowl’s abilities, even with Juliet at risk. Then the gold arrived!
I won’t tell the ending, but it did involve more dialog between Holly and Fowl. We are left with the impression that Artemis is not quite so sinister at the end as at the beginning. Near the end, Holly tries to prevent her people from detonating the bio-bomb that will kill the humans, intervening for the innocent Juliet, insisting that “A life is a life.”
I will leave it there. The ending is surprising. Upper graders who need a lot of action to motivate them to read will proably be willing to finish reading this because of the action and humor. I don’t particularly like the extreme environmental undertones in the book, and it’s a bit of a spoiler for me. The fairie folk have no good words for the human race, which in their opinion destroys everything it touches.